Dame Kiri to star in Downton Abbey episode

Kiri Te Kanawa Dame Kiri retired from the operatic stage in 2009

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Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is to star in an episode of ITV's hit series Downton Abbey, while veteran US star Shirley MacLaine is rejoining the cast.

The fourth season will see New Zealand-born Dame Kiri play a house guest and she will sing during her visit.

MacLaine is playing Martha Levinson, the mother-in-law of the Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville.

The series has won nine Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild Award for the ensemble cast.

This was the first time the cast of a British television show has won this award.

Hugh Bonneville and Jim Carter Hugh Bonneville [L] and Jim Carter are returning to the show

It was also named best drama at the National Television Awards earlier this year.

The show's producers also confirmed that Siobhan Finneran, who plays vindictive housemaid Sarah O'Brien, is leaving the show.

Other new actors joining the cast include veteran actress Harriet Walter, who recently played Brutus in an all-female production of Julius Caesar, and former EastEnders star and theatre actor Nigel Harman.

Returning actors on the show include Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle.

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